Cracked Ice

One of the things that I’ve learned so far today (I learn something new, sometimes several somethings new, every day) concerns cracked ice. I was reading Tokyo Jinga’s blog ( ) and came across a post entitled “Japan-a-mania….Cracked Ice and Crazy Quilts”. In part, it states:

“It is believed that the term “crazy” quilt comes from the “crazing” of the porcelain glaze. The word “crazy” at that time would have also meant broken and irregular. The pattern design comes from a well-known Japanese pattern called “cracked ice”. Quilting designs had always been based on uniform and regularly shaped pieces of fabric, sewn into repeating patterns and then quilted in a uniform pattern as well. For the first time asymmetric and irregular patches of fabric were being cut and sewn and decorated along their seams.”

Following is an example of what crazing on pottery looks like:



All the little cracks in the pottery glaze did look like cracked ice, now that I was viewing it with a new perspective.

Tokyo Jinga went on to say: “Examples of cracked ice patterns abound in Japanese porcelain.”

That statement prompted me to get up and go into the dining room to see if any of my English Staffordshire transferware plates had a “cracked ice” pattern included in the design.  And some of them did!

1889 "Estelle" Pattern by Dale Hall

1889 “Estelle” Pattern by Dale Hall

And this pattern:

1880 "Excelsior" by Old Hall

1880 “Excelsior” by Old Hall

And the craziest crazy quilt transferware pattern on them all, Floris Ligna:

1883 "Floris Ligna" by Pratt & Simpson / Wallis Gimpson

1883 “Floris Ligna” by Pratt & Simpson / Wallis Gimson

Toyko Jinga continued with “Unlike earlier (and later) quilts, crazy quilts were not made with a sense of thrift or recycling, even though it may seem so as they utilize bits and pieces of valuable fabrics such as silks and velvets.   Nor were they made for warmth as they do not typically have a batting layer in between the top and the back. Crazy quilts were originally made by well-to-do women in the middle and upper classes to demonstrate their needlework skills and show that they had the leisure time to make completely ornamental pieces.  The use of the word quilt is a misnomer –  crazy quilts were not used as quilts at all – nobody slept with them. They were made to be displayed.”

“While the 1870s and 1880s were the heyday of American fascination with the exotic, the craze for crazy quilts died down by 1910.  By then, cracked ice patterns and many other Japanese motifs had fueled the Aesthetic Movement and helped to launch Art Nouveau and later Modernism.”

To read Tokyo Jinja’s entire post and see photos of Japanese porcelain and crazy quilt examples, please click this link:

The following crazy quilt was made in 1884 by Rebecca Palmer and is now at the Brooklyn Museum:

Silk and Velvet Crazy Quilt Made in 1884 by Rebecca Palmer

Silk and Velvet Crazy Quilt Made in 1884 by Rebecca Palmer, Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum

Cracked ice / crazy quilt patterns even found their way into silver designs.

Luther Boardman & Sons "Breton" Pattern Circa 1880

1881 “India” by Hiram Hayden

The  “India” pattern above and the “Breton” pattern below are two of my all-time favorite silverplate designs….marvelous detail.  Could you just see either one of these with the Floris Ligna pattern?

L. Boardman "Breton" Circa 1880

L. Boardman “Breton” Circa 1880

I do have forks in the “Breton” pattern above available at my Etsy shop, 




One thought on “Cracked Ice

  1. KerryCan

    This is totally fascinating! I had no idea of the connections you talk about here although I knew about the concept of crazing in glaze and, of course, I knew about crazy quilts. What you write makes so much sense, once I see it, but I never would’ve made the connections. It’s so interesting that the trend shows up in the dishes and silverplate, too. Wow–this gives a lot to think about!


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